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Mary Biddinger

THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO KEEP YOU AFLOAT

 

 

My pockets were always good pockets, and empty

of the things that would condemn me. When I ran

the streets it was with purpose. I was never afraid

of the ball, even when it came smashing through

my windshield on the freeway. It wasn’t a ball.

It was my neighbor’s head, and there was no car,

just a canoe on its side. You can’t paddle it that

way. They called me the queen of portage. Stood

me at the edge of the dock and said go. Permitted

thirty seconds for a full contemplation before: go.

Only tied cinderblocks on when I deserved them. 

Everyone knew how much I fancied a challenge.

We had no mountain to go tell it on. Instead just

acre upon acre of dead barns and their wet thighs.

My mother cut the pockets out of my pants, shut

the seams with glue. We spoke of this no more.

 

 

 

PICTURESQUE RENDERING TRANSLATED

INTO AMATEURISH CLIP ART

 

 

We liked what we liked and we liked

hard. We were constituted of eighty-five percent

 

gloss, fifteen percent matte. We knew

how to squat, and we also had no idea how to

 

snake a drain, but we were colorless

and nearly odorless. We shook hands but never

 

looked anyone in the eye. Everything

was so symbolic. I have caught this fish, or, how

 

violently I salute the flag above me.

I did not build this log cabin, but my forefathers

 

died of starvation on a ferry only half-

way to their destination, so here is my blue ribbon

 

for, you know, almost making it. We

loved to make it. Sometimes in a congested parking

 

facility. Other times right there in front

of the very obvious memorial, serving to remind all

 

that stone is heavy. We only had reverse

tan lines. Our scanties were more modest than our

 

dungarees. Often we had no idea where

the horizon started. The trees were just an errant

 

clump of ink. Somebody had omitted

my left hand, but you always knew where to put it.

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